Tseng fires 66 looks for her fourth major

By Associated PressApril 3, 2011, 4:47 am
2007 Kraft Nabisco ChampionshipRANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Stacy Lewis’ three-shot lead dwindled to a single stroke after just four holes, and it vanished entirely after the turn. Nearly every time Lewis missed an opportunity, Yani Tseng jumped all over her— to the delight of Tseng’s sizable cheering section.

Lewis learned just how tough it’ll be to get between the world’s top-ranked player and a rare repeat victory at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Tseng roared into the lead with a third-round 66 Saturday, moving two shots ahead of Lewis in the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year.

“I just want to keep smiling all day tomorrow and have a lot of fun,” Tseng said. “I did it before, so I just want to do it again.”

Tseng showed a defending champion’s confidence with her aggressive, powerful play at Mission Hills, shooting the round’s low score to move to 12-under 204. She erased playing partner Lewis’ three-shot lead in the first seven holes before going ahead on the 11th.

After back-to-back birdies to open the back nine, Tseng went ahead for good with her sixth birdie on the 15th. She was a model of ruthless efficiency in a bogey-free round, looking more than capable of earning her second celebratory leap into Poppie’s Pond.

“I played pretty aggressive because I wanted to get over to catch Stacy,” Tseng said. “I love this course because you’re not hitting driver every hole. You have to be smart.”

The talkative 22-year-old from Taiwan also had the backing of about 300 boisterous fans from nearby Beaumont, Calif., where Tseng and her mother lived for about three years while Tseng practiced and attempted to qualify for the tour.

“It was really nice that they came out here and cheered for me,” Tseng said. “I feel very appreciative, because I need a crowd. I need a big crowd here to make me more excited.”

Lewis struggled to keep up in her quest for her first tour victory, managing just two birdies while repeatedly saving par with a steady short game and putter. Even after her lone bogey on the 16th hole, Lewis retained a measure of confidence simply by staying just two strokes back.

“I hit it in the rough all day, just struggling to make pars,” said Lewis, who finished with a 71. “I’m just really glad for it to be over. I got some confidence from it, but it’s really frustrating to be making those putts hole after hole.”

Morgan Pressel (69) was four shots off the lead in third place. Michelle Wie (69) was six strokes back in fourth, staying in the hunt for her first major title.

Tseng is chasing her fourth major title after winning the Kraft Nabisco and the Women’s British Open last year. She has already won four times worldwide this year, but a winning final round at Mission Hills would put her in historic company.

Annika Sorenstam (2001-02) and Canada’s Sandra Post (1978-79) are the only previous back-to-back winners in the 40-year history of the former Nabisco Dinah Shore tournament – and only Sorenstam has done it since the event was designated a major nearly three decades ago.

“These four, five tournaments, I’ve really learned a lot,” said Tseng, who recently bought Sorenstam’s house in Orlando. “I’m not afraid that I’m leading right now. I don’t think too much for tomorrow that I have to win. I just want to enjoy it.”

The first day of the weekend in Palm Springs could evoke a depressingly familiar scenario for Lewis, who lost a second-round lead to Tseng at the Australian Masters just seven weeks ago. Tseng roared ahead Saturday on the Gold Coast and finished strong to win the title, beating Lewis by four strokes in the final round.

“It seems like every time I play with her, she plays like that,” Lewis said. “It’s hard because she seems like she has a chance to make birdie on every hole. It puts pressure on me.”

Tseng, who hit a front-nine drive over 300 yards for the second straight day, and Lewis will be back together Sunday afternoon.

“I think she’s got more pressure on her tomorrow,” Lewis said. “I can just go out there and play.”

After triple-digit temperatures weighed on players during the first two rounds, the heat dropped into the 90s with cloud cover and a mild breeze. Lewis still was sweating even before she removed her Arkansas Razorbacks head cover for her first drive, while Tseng certainly appeared cool and collected.

Wie had another solid day after her opening-round 74, although she also missed a 2-foot putt while making two bogeys. Win or lose, the former child prodigy will be back in class Monday for the spring quarter at Stanford.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been in contention here,” said Wie, who made four top-15 finishes at Mission Hills before she turned 17. “It’s a lot of fun. I forgot how fun it was, and I’m really excited to play tomorrow.”

Brittany Lincicome and Jane Park began the third round even with Tseng, but both struggled. Lincicome, the 2009 Kraft Nabisco champion, double-bogeyed the ninth hole in a 74 that put her eight shots off the lead, while Park fell into 10th place with a 76.

Pressel made three straight birdies on the back nine to stay in contention for the title she won in 2007. Hall of Famer and five-time major winner Se Ri Pak shot her second straight 71, putting her 11 strokes off the lead.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.

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Wie takes shot at LPGA dress code in crop top

By Grill Room TeamDecember 10, 2017, 5:33 pm

The new LPGA dress code got mixed reviews when it was announced in July, and Michelle Wie is taking full advantage of her offseason with no restrictions.

The 28-year-old former U.S. Women's Open champion is keeping her game sharp while back in her home state of Hawaii, but couldn't help taking a shot at the rules while doing it, posting a photo to Instagram of her playing golf in a crop top with the caption, "Offseason = No dress code fine."

Offseason = No dress code fines #croptopdroptop

A post shared by Michelle Wie (@themichellewie) on

Wie isn't the first to voice her displeasure with the rules. Lexi Thompson posted a similar photo and caption to Instagram shortly after the policy was announced.